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The global plutocracy

  • There is no parallel in human history to the immense concentration of wealth that exists today, nor to the extremes of parasitism and decadence that constitute the “new normal.” Contemporary capitalism—what the ruling class and its political and media flunkies call the “free enterprise system”—has created a world in which every policy decision is dictated by the need to protect and increase the wealth of an infinitesimal portion of the world’s population.
  • American Inequality in Six Charts

World Socialist Website 

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This chart shows that since 2008, the United States has had the largest increase in social inequality of any developed country.

21 January 2014 | On the eve of the annual spectacle of parasitic wealth and power that is the World Economic Forum in the Alpine resort town of Davos, Switzerland, the Oxfam charity has issued a report warning of the unprecedented growth of social inequality throughout the world.

Describing a planet in the malevolent grip of a handful of plutocrats, the report states that the richest 85 people in the world control as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the world's population—3.5 billion people! It notes that the richest 1 percent today controls 46 percent of the world’s wealth. Oxfam writes: “The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion… 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.”

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American Inequality in Six Charts, John Cassidy, New Yorker 

  • M.I.T.’s Robert Solow suggested that, at U.S. levels of inequality, inequality (might be) retarding growth. Columbia’s Joseph Stiglitz and others have also made (the same argument).
  • Ask a Keynesian: With Borrowing Capped, Won't More Pentagon Spending Destroy Jobs?
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Haiti's "Recovery": Luxury Hotels Next to Tent Cities

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The lack of emphasis on rebuilding Haiti’s infrastructure is problematic because approximately 300,000 Haitians are still living in tent cities. Of these, many are unemployed. Further, those removed from their lands due to foreign investment have been compensated very little, or have not received any remuneration at all.

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In January 2010 Haiti suffered from a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. In the months following the disaster the predominantly black Caribbean nation received millions of dollars in aid. Yet most of this revenue came with strings attached and often made its way back into the hands of the countries and corporations that donated it.

Much of this investment is being used to build luxury hotels and industrial parks, under the premise that it would create jobs and employ the Haitians. Today much of Haiti remains unchanged. Almost three years since the earthquake, less than 2,000 Haitians have actually been employed.  Some foreign companies are only investing in structures that will accommodate foreign interests. There is also the rising exploitation of Haiti’s natural resources.

Project Censored educates students and the public about the importance of a truly free press for democratic self-government.  We expose and oppose news censorship and we promote independent investigative journalism, media literacy, and critical thinking.

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The Scholars Who Shill for Wall Street

Lee Fang, The Nation 

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todd_zywicki_otu_img.jpgOctober 23, 2013 | Professor Todd Zywicki is vying to be the toughest critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency set up by the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law to monitor predatory lending practices. In research papers and speeches, Zywicki not only routinely slams the CFPB’s attempts to regulate bank overdraft fees and payday lenders; he depicts the agency as a “parochial” bureaucracy that is “guaranteed to run off the rails.” He has also become one of the leading detractors of the CFPB’s primary architect, Elizabeth Warren, questioning her seminal research on medical bankruptcies and slamming her for once claiming Native American heritage to gain “an edge in hiring.”

Zywicki’s withering arguments against financial reform have earned him guest columns in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and on the New York Times’s website. Lobbyists representing the largest consumer finance companies in the country have cited his writings in letters to regulators, and the number of times he has testified before Congress is prominently displayed on his academic website at the George Mason University School of Law.

Lee Fang is a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. He covers money in politics, conservative movements and lobbying. Lee’s work has resulted in multiple calls for hearings in Congress and the Federal Election Commission.

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The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right, Lee Fang, The Nation 

The Machine CoverInvestigative reporter Lee Fang's look at how the conservative movement rebuilt itself after the 2008 elections.

Before Barack Obama had even taken the oath of office after his historic victory, cadres of lobbyists, political hacks, oil tycoons, and right-wing politicians met to plan his political demise. The massive conservative infrastructure created by business groups beginning in the 1970s would not be sufficient, they concluded: in the age of Obama, something new—and bold—had to be done.

Written by the blogger who was the first to report on the lobbyists who brought us the Tea Parties, here is a groundbreaking exposé of the plans to make America conservative again. A Field Guide to the Right dissects astroturf strategies, the coordination between corporate power brokers and Republican leaders, the political infrastructure building, and the true history of the Koch brothers’ war on Obama.

For anyone interested in comprehending the new landscape of the conservative movement, here is an essential guide to the people, the money, and the strategies that make it tick.

The book is published by The New Press. Ordering options can be found here.

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The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government, Chris Hedges, Truthdig

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  • The rise of Christian fascism is aided by our complacency. The longer we fail to openly denounce and defy bankrupt liberalism, the longer we permit corporate power to plunder the nation and destroy the ecosystem, the longer we stand slack-jawed before the open gates of the city waiting meekly for the barbarians, the more we ensure their arrival.
  • How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington

Series | Loathsome Wall Street Deficit Hysterics: Part 1, 'Blame the Old and Sick, Not Us'

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  • Besides inspiring the reduced level of government funding we are now seeing in the US and elsewhere, the deficit hysteria campaign is threatening to undermine what remains of the American social safety net that helped form and support the American middle class over the past 70 years.
  • State (Minnesota) to cut Medicaid benefits for the elderly.

Michael Hoexter, New Economic Perspectives

Austerity%20Measures%20Graphic.jpgSunday, 29 December 2013 | The austerity push by politicians, political operatives, and pundits of the last 5 years is the height of economic, political, and social perversity and stupidity. Yet, as it still resonates in the halls of power, in the White House and Congress, and in many parts of the media, it still requires explanation and clarification.  Besides inspiring the reduced level of government funding we are now seeing in the US and elsewhere, the deficit hysteria campaign is threatening to undermine what remains of the American social safety net that helped form and support the American middle class over the past 70 years.  In addition, now and in the future, we will need a government able to use the full range of fiscal (i.e. financial) tools to combat climate change, tools which the austerity campaign seeks to lame or sequester for the benefit of a small financial elite.   In the latest turn, deficit hysterics are trying to incite intergenerational warfare between the young and the old, accusing the latter of taking more than their share of public financial resources which the young will need later in life.

Within the past couple of years, I have tried to explain in a compact and vivid way the austerity campaign, which remains now as then a perverse, unrealistic and destructive set of economic opinions and policy recommendations.  Recently, a view of the austerity drive has come into focus, which maybe has occurred to others as well.  Here is my exposition of this sharper perspective upon what remains a dangerous movement among the political and economic elite to strangle and reverse social progress.

Michael Hoexter  writes on Sustainability, Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency: Policy and Marketing; Politics of a Sustainable Future; and Meta-economics: Science, Subjectivity and Economic Policy.

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State to cut Medicaid benefits for the elderly, Chris Serres, Minneapolis (MN) Star Tribune

  • An estimated 2,800 low-income senior citizens who currently receive Medicaid and other state assistance to help with basic living chores, such as bathing and cooking, would no longer qualify for help under the new rules.
  • Advocates say new Medicaid rules for home-based care are shortsighted.
  • Unemployed Americans Speak Out as Benefits are Slashed at Christmas
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The Plight of the Employed

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  • I don’t think I’d go so far as to say that there’s a deliberate effort to keep the economy weak; but corporate America certainly isn’t feeling much pain, and the plight of workers is actually a plus from their point of view.
  • Unemployed Americans Speak Out as Benefits are Slashed at Christmas

Paul Krugman, New York (NY) Times

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End This Depression Now coverDecember 24, 2013 | Mike Konczal writes about how Washington has lost interest in the unemployed, and what a scandal that is. He also, however, makes an important point that I suspect plays a significant role in the political economy of this scandal: these are lousy times for the employed, too.

Why? Because they have so little bargaining power. Leave or lose your job, and the chances of getting another comparable job, or any job at all, are definitely not good. And workers know it: quit rates, the percentage of workers voluntarily leaving jobs, remain far below pre-crisis levels, and very very far below what they were in the true boom economy of the late 90s.

Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in Economics, is a New York Times columnist and continues as professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University.

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Unemployed Americans Speak Out as Benefits are Slashed at Christmas, John Dodds, Truthout

  • "I am a single mother of four and was laid off almost six months ago. I have applied to at least four jobs a week every week and still haven't found a job that will support my family. I have a college degree and have always worked, till I was laid off, and will now have no choice but to turn to welfare if benefits are not extended. Please help!"
  • Temporary Work, Lasting Harm
  • Dire consequences on the way as emergency unemployment aid expires
  • Paul Krugman | A Permanent Slump?
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